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How to Become Empowered and Actualize Your Possibilities

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How to Become Empowered and Actualize Your Possibilities

The discovery of the self is a lifelong process which takes place between two worlds; internal and external. At first, finding your moral and ethical place in the world—or even your high school—can be overwhelming, being so focused on your internal, adolescent self. But as you absorb and experience new things, your cognitive functions become more cosmopolitan, allowing you to perceive the context of your bubble of reality within The Big Picture. This might make you feel like an insignificant stepper in the “Grand March” of history, but distinguishing the details of your individual identity (i.e. unique circumstances, emotional associations, semantic idiosyncrasies) is the first step to facing life with more confidence and optimism, becoming more spontaneous and ambitious, while actualizing your possibilities.

Do Not Compare Yourself to Others

“Our lives look a lot more interesting when they’re filtered through the sexy Facebook interface. We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery.” -Jonathan Franzen

Remember this: Every human being is equal and unique, born into varying circumstances, locations, and times. Facebook—and the rest of social media—is a crude, passive tool for forming and maintaining social connections; while it is handy for travelers and “a more connected world,” developing an online identity can disfigure your real one—becoming more narcissistic, self-critical, or envious. It is unfair to compare your internal life with the “highlight reel” on someone else’s timeline, and you never know what is hidden beneath their surface.

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Respect Your (Real) Friendships

“Even the smallest person can change the course of history.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Between Tweeting like a celebrity and scanning Netflix in obscurity, your friends will always remind you that your life really does matter—if it doesn’t to you, it does to them. In a way, your friends see you more clearly than you can ever see yourself: have fun, be honest and sympathetic, and express yourself without fear of judgment. Friendship is an ancient and legendary bond: without it, you can forget how incredible, quirky, and valuable your life is.

Learn from the Past, Plan for the Future, but Live in the Present

“You shouldn’t chase after the past or place expectations on the future. What is past is left behind. The future is as yet unreached. Whatever quality is present you clearly see right there, right there.” -Buddha

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While you ruminate on the past or the future, remember that each time you recall a memory, you recreate it: the more you return to certain memories, the more distorted they may be. Regret often exaggerates the magnitude of past mistakes and the fear of future ones. This may prove that emotional stress can cloud your working memory—which strongly correlates to your IQ—and cause your worldview to become pessimistic and vague. You can escape the pressures of another time by accepting and immersing yourself in the present, no matter where you are.

Be Secure Enough to Change

“Maybe the most under-appreciated thing about Steve [Jobs] was that he had the courage to change his mind.” -Tim Cook, Apple CEO

As you stumble onward in your journey, you will find that life is full of contradiction and paradox—and so are you. Though your brain tends to dislike the dissonance produced by conflicting ideas, many of our choices are the lesser of two (or more) evils. No one is perfect, and the heroes among us make the best of their mistakes by learning from them without feeling personally attacked or being hypersensitive to criticism.

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Trust Your Judgment, Act Accordingly

“Centuries of centuries and only in the present do things happen; countless men in the air, on the face of the earth and the sea, and all that really is happening is happening to me…” -Jorge Luis Borges

The Big Picture is impossibly grand and labyrinthine, but if you trust your instincts, your morals, and your experience to guide you, you will find yourself in the right place. The Galileos and Jobses of our time have shown us that if there is no “right way” to do anything. Nothing is true; everything is permitted. And the time is now. One definitive act is much louder (and much rarer) than a thousand vague words.

Links to previous Lifehack articles:
In Be Secure Enough to Change: “the dissonance produced by conflicting ideas

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In Respect Your (Real) Friendships: “ancient and legendary bond

Featured photo credit:  Raised arms man in the summit of mountain via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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